Check your machismo at the door and get ready for some fast-paced action and heavy gunplay when you sit down to play this new title from Platinum Games. Vanquish is a roller-coaster ride that truly surprised me at E3, and didn’t fail to disappoint gameplay-wise when it touched down on my console at home (and my console knows all about the right touching).
Vanquish is set in the near future where Earth is overpopulated and resources are scarce. In preparation for these circumstances, the United States has invented a space station to serve as an alternative energy source using the sun. However, one day in San Francisco, while people are enjoying their Starbucks and talking on their iPhone 10s, the extremist group calling themselves the Order of the Russian Star uses this very space station to direct a beam of energy at the city. The results are some shocking death sequences spanned in a three minute cutscene.
An exotic looking gentleman in a tight suit because Russians are apparently known for this look named Victor Zaitsev orders the United States to surrender, or New York is next. As I screamed at the TV “think of the pizzas!”, the female President of America instructs Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns and his task force Bravo Company to take back control of the space station, with the help of Sam Gideon (whom you play as).
Gideon is a researcher at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the same agency that helped build the station at the center of all this mayhem. Gideon goes in with the premise to field-test the Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS), as well to save a scientist named Dr. Francis Candide under the private orders of the President. Dr. Candide helped construct the suit Gideon is wearing and is behind the station’s technology.
Right from the beginning you’re thrown into battle with stunning sci-fi graphics and action happening all around you. You’re looking for cover one minute, boosting the next, and shooting a robot in the head in slow motion as you watch the creature explode into pieces and sparks.
Your suit is equipped with an experimental weapon named the BLADE, which can scan an existing weapon and transform into its replica. You’re allowed to carry three weapons at a time. Some of the weapons we’re all familiar with, such as assault rifles and shotguns, but then there’s interesting ones like disk launchers and LFE guns that make gameplay all the more interesting.
The most fun you’ll have with this game is when you’re boosting. Boosting is when you slide on your knees across the field at a super high speed. It’s essential when you’re trying to avoid gunfire, assisting others, or want to run up right on an enemy and shoot them in the face. Take that futuristic menace that should have been a dishwasher!
Along with boosting, another unique trait this game has is AR mode. In AR mode, time slows down so you can react to the danger around you. You can head for cover or use that opportune moment to take down the boss that’s on its last sliver of life. This mode activates when you’ve taken on too much damage or you can manually activate it by boosting + evading + aiming (in sequence). With all this at your disposal, mastering of the gameplay is really entertaining.
The suit does have its limits, or else it wouldn’t make things challenging. If you boost for too long or activate AR mode, your suit will overheat and you’ll be forced to go without it for a while. There is an option to perform some melee action, which varies depending on your active weapon, but just like boosting, it can cause your suit to overheat.
Your weapons can be upgraded throughout the game in two ways. Some enemies will conveniently drop an upgrade block. The other way is to have your weapon already at its max capacity of bullets, then picking up more ammo.
Chevron marks and stars appear as you upgrade; I thought was a cool touch to use military rankings to show your weapon’s progress. The more upgrades, the more power and ammo capacity your weapons get. Also, when you heal others on the battlefield, you get weapons too. So it gives you a sense of reward to look out for your teammates (although Burns won’t like it).
There are quick time events in the game, proving to be just as thrilling and nail-biting as the original gameplay is. The cover systems are quite handy if you want to stay alive, but you’ll quickly learn that you can’t hide forever. An enemy may boost and knock you on your ass with a missile, or you’ll realize your cover is now dust and gravel.
Bosses, obviously, are the most difficult and they appear quite frequently in the levels. I’m not the best when it comes to shooters, so you can easily conclude I had difficulties during my first run-ins with these robotic beasts.
Yet no matter how frustrated I became (and it was often), not once did I stop playing. If a game can keep me coming back for more even when I’m irritated enough to throw my controller at the TV, then I can fairly say the gameplay kept me hooked.
When it comes to the environment, it’s constantly changing to keep you from getting bored. You’re eventually fighting the same enemies over and over again, but the scenarios which you’re in are different and interactive. At one point you’re on a fast-moving train doing a 360 turn while enemies are shooting at you, later on you’re in zero gravity, and at another moment the floor is crumbling at your feet.
Every rose has its thorn, which I guess to translate this into futuristic terms; every great robot has its defect.
The biggest downfall this great game has is its story, because it doesn’t really have one. The original plot is just there to give you a reason for why you’re doing what it is you’re doing. Eventually you may even forget that simple objective, as it doesn’t matter much to you when you’re boosting between robotic spider legs.
Except for the occasional funny banter from Gideon, there isn’t much character development. Your support operative Elena and the I-was-bullied-as-a-child-so-now-I-hate-the-world Marine leader Robert Burns are pretty bland. They don’t have much depth to their personalities, which is a downer because they had some potential.
As you may have guessed from the lack of story and character importance, you are never stuck watching boring cutscenes (sorry SaintMantooth). The few that you do see just keep the ball rolling to get you to your next checkpoint. In fact, during the times you need to slow down and hear Elena’s logistics, you’re still in control of Gideon so you can survey the area and plan your next move.
The other biggest downfall Vanquish has is its no multiplayer or co-op options. For such an interesting shooter, I’m sure they could have come up with interesting ways to mix it up for friends to play together. It has replay value even without multiplayer because of the scoring system (online rankings), but it feels like it just fell through there.
The game should take you around seven hours (or longer if you’re me) to complete. It’s not a very long game, but its one that will keep you busy every minute you’re playing. Plus there are challenges on the side for extra playthrough.
For people looking for a bit of a shooter challenge mixed in with some stylish moves, this game is for you. The settings and the suit itself are eye-pleasing, the gameplay is engaging, and if you just don’t care for story-based games, this is something you should consider.
Oh, and if in the future something like this does happen, you can already have on your resume “robot ass kicker” down so people know you’re well-prepared. I’ve already squeezed that into my resume considering all the work I’ve put into this game.
Author’s Note: I received an early copy of the game from SEGA. Played the game to completion.